Being charged with a crime

Overview

If you are charged with a crime you will be given a ‘charge sheet’. This sets out the details of the crime you are being charged with.

The police will decide if you:

  • can go home until the court hearing - but may have to follow certain rules, known as ‘bail’
  • are kept in police custody until you are taken to court for your hearing

Your first court hearing after you are charged with a crime will be at a magistrates’ court - even if your trial will be at a Crown Court later on.

If you’re charged with a minor offence your case could be decided without going to court (‘single justice procedure’). If you get a single justice procedure notice you must respond within 21 days.

The rules are different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Young people

If you’re under 18, your first hearing will usually be at a youth court.

If you’re under 17, the police must arrange for you to be held in local authority accommodation, if possible, before you go to court.

If you’re aged 12 to 16, the police can decide to keep you at the police station if they think it will protect the public.